31 Pilots in 31 Days: Suits

When it was originally on: 2011-2019

Original network: USA

Where you can stream it now: Amazon Prime or Peacock Premium

Had I seen it before: Yes. I’ve seen the first few episodes, but never got too invested in the whole series.

What IMDb says: On the run from a drug deal gone bad, brilliant college dropout Mike Ross finds himself working with Harvey Specter, one of New York City’s best lawyers.

Why I picked it: Those slots for basic cable scripted shows are getting harder and harder to fill and well.. Suits fits. That isn’t to take anything away from it though. Suits had a pretty respectable 8-year run and a lot of people seem to like it even if it wasn’t scooping up awards left and right. It’s one of those shows that reminds me that plenty of people who watch TV don’t live on Twitter all day every day, and how easily “buzz” can lead me astray in terms of what audiences are actually watching. And of course, part of the fun of pilot reviewing is trying to hash out what different audiences are watching and why shows that garner that elusive “buzz” can still flop while shows that don’t can live on.

What I liked: Suits takes what should be the “boring” side of lawyering and makes it more exciting. We’ve all seen law procedurals before, but by focusing on civil matters for/against big corporations rather than crime, Suits manages to be a nice balance of familiar yet fresh. Plus, that allows it to be much lighter in tone than if Harvey and Mike were solving murder and rape cases all day.

One of the great things about Suits is that it zeroes in on a larger universal conflict: the gap between “book smarts” and “street smarts.” Mike can memorize anything and pass standardized tests with flying colors. He’s also capable of thinking on his feet in high-pressure situations, as shown by figuring out that the people’s he’s supposed to deliver weed to are actually cops. Yet he also doesn’t know to fill out a subpoena. He doesn’t understand the finer points of practicing law even if he knows the law itself inside and out.

Harvey on the other hand cares little to nothing about what kinds of grades people got on their tests. He stresses other seemingly unimportant things, like the kind of suit Mike wears. Harvey’s all about results, and he’s happy to bend and break any rules to get the results he wants, presuming he doesn’t get caught. Harvey is all too quick to take risks, while Mike tries to avoid risks to the extent he can.

These two leads both have their flaws. They’re smart in some ways, stupid in other ways. The pilot also shows them each getting a comeuppance because of those flaws. Harvey gets caught lying to a client and loses a promotion; Mike almost loses a case, but Harvey rescues it at the last minute. Whether we identify more as a Mike or a Harvey, it’s going to be fun watching these two interact, learn from each other’s different styles, get into trouble, and then have to bail each other out of trouble. I have no complaints about Harvey or Mike, and like all the great dynamic duos of fiction, the defining traits of one bring out the defining traits of the other.

This pilot is longer than the typical Suits episode, clocking in at 1 hr. 12 minutes. Ultimately, I think that’s probably for the best as it has ample time to introduce us to Harvey and Mike and their separate worlds, plus give us a lot of time with these two actually working a case together. We get a sense for what the average “case of the week” looks like, plus a lot of setup for plot lines that could go on for a while. The pilot teases a love triangle between Mike, paralegal Rachel, and the woman who is currently dating Mike’s bad influence drug dealer roommate. By the end of the pilot, Mike reveals that this roommate is a drugdealer, much to the chagrin of his partner, and certainly that could have ripple effects for everyone going to into future episodes. We also get to see Mike with his grandmother, learned this grandmother raised him, and how this may give Mike a softer side that Harvey doesn’t have. On Harvey’s side, there’s a promotion to senior partner that’s swiftly taken away, some womanizing, an obnoxious rival lawyer in Lewis, plus a threat of disbarment if he gets caught doing anything else shady, ya know, like hiring Mike and lying about him going to law school.

It’s commendable that the pilot 1) firmly grasps how important the Harvey/Mike dynamic is to selling us on the show and puts ample time into it and 2) still makes room to introduce so many side characters and give them at least enough characterization for us to see how they’ll fit into the larger picture moving forward. Rachel, Lewis, Trevor, Jessica, Donna, are all here. None of them ever feel like distractions from what’s happening with Harvey and Mike, just extensions of their world. That said, they all have their own way of either causing conflict or relieving conflict for the dynamic duo at the center, so it’s not like they’re interchangable stock characters either.

What I didn’t like: I can’t really come up with anything, except maybe wishing the pilot didn’t have to be 72 minutes, but again, they did get a lot done with that 72 minutes, so I’ll forgve it.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes! It’s a fun show that strikes a pretty good balance between drama and comedy, and that’s hard to find.

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